Finding a job as a newly qualified lawyer – Your CV

Part of our series: Finding a job as a newly qualified lawyer

Finding a job as a NQ_Your CV

Well done! You’re nearly there! You’ve made it through the LPC, traversed two years of training and, if you’re one of the lucky ones, you might even have been offered an NQ role at your current firm. Now it’s time for a big decision. What’s next…?

In the first part of Route1’s series “Finding a job as a Newly Qualified lawyer”, we consider the starting point of any new recruitment process: the CV.

Fresh start

If you are considering leaving for pastures new, it’s worth noting that you might be slightly out of practice… it may have been five years since you interviewed for your training contract. Even if it’s been only a couple of years, the chances are that your CV is out of date, and now is time to get your ducks in order.

So what should you be doing, thinking, and preparing for? And how do you navigate the jobs market?

Your CV

You might not be very experienced putting a CV together, especially as the training contract application process is much more about filling in application forms than a traditional CV-led process. At Route1, I see thousands of CVs a year, and therefore have a very clear understanding of what effect a good CV can have on your future prospects in the market.

It may surprise you that a decision on whether to invite a candidate for interview will be made quickly – it’s unlikely an employer will be spending 5 minutes reading your CV. You, therefore, need to help them understand what you do in a clear and succinct way. If they have to hunt for the key points, it’s going to reduce your chances of an interview. Our Route1 Candidates Team will be able to help you from the start, so contact candidates@route1.co or book a call with me to talk directly.

What makes a good CV?

A CV is an introduction, a conversation starter, and this is the case when distriuting to recruiters and employers. It is important to make a good a first impression with both. So how do you go about this?

The first point is to make sure everything on your CV is relevant and your audience doesn’t have to search for the right information! It sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many CVs include extraneous information that doesn’t need to be there. So, include only what needs to be included for someone to quickly understand what you do. This can be much harder than it sounds… But a good way to test this is to ask a non-lawyer friend or family member to read your CV. Whilst they may not understand what you do, they should be able to tell what it is you do.

The most common question I get asked by candidates is “how long should my CV be?” Now, I’m not a proponent of the idea that it must be under two pages. However, given you’re an NQ, if it’s going much over this length, I would suggest it’s probably too long.

Format

Your CV should ideally start with your name and contact information at the top, followed by education below. If you want to include a short summary at the top, under your name, feel free to do so. One or two sentences is enough:

“A fourth seat trainee at X firm, with seats in corporate, banking, litigation and employment, seeking an NQ role a leading corporate team. Relevant experience includes public and private M&A, and private equity transactions.”

If you are interested in more than one practice area, then draft more than one CV – tailor it for each and every practice area.

There is no need to include your age, religion, ethnicity, etc – you will usually provide these on Equal Opportunities questionnaires from each firm you apply to. Where applicable include your nationality and your right to work/visa status, as well as your (intended) qualification date and jurisdiction.

Your education should be in reverse chronological order – all dates, institutions and grades from GCSEs through to LPC.

As with your education, start your employment history with the most recent and work backward. That includes your training seats.

At Route1, we often get asked how much detail to include. The general rule of thumb is to give enough that the employer knows what type of work you have done and what responsibility you had. There is no need to list every bit of experience, but if you undertook work that is unusual for a trainee – say so. If the deal/matter is in the public domain and attributed to your firm, then name the client/deal. If not, describe the transaction without naming the client/deal. An example of the wording could be:

Advised AcmeCorp on the £100m acquisition of a leading supplier of anvils in Europe;
Led the due diligence and disclosure letter exercises;
Assisted with the drafting of the sale and purchase agreement;
Played an active role in the completion negotiations.

A good way to start putting this together is to ‘debrief’ after each matter – keep personal notes of what you did. It will also help you to prepare for interviews. Too often trainees and associates move from one matter to the next and don’t reflect on what they have learned. It’s good practice to get into – for both your CV’s benefit and your professional development.

Make sure you include any training courses you have attended, any articles which you have contributed to, and any marketing or business development activities. Your interests should be limited to a select few, not an exhaustive and generic list. In reality, no one is interested that you were Head Girl 15 years ago, or that you enjoy socialising!

Check and re-check!

It may surprise you that a huge number of lawyers’ CVs have glaring errors. So I cannot state this enough: check, and re-check your CV! Get someone else to read it, too. Another good tip is to reformat it, change the font and size, and then re-check it. It is all too easy to see what you meant to write, not what is actually written – so a fresh document will help to avoid this.

Final points to note

– If you have any gaps in your CV make sure you account for them

– If there is any information that you won’t feel comfortable talking about at interview, or are wondering how/whether to include it, speak with our Candidates Team

– Do not exaggerate any aspect of your CV – you will likely be caught out at some stage

– Avoid using excessive formatting or tables in your CV – and keep it black and white

– Remember, your CV is a conversation starter. If it’s on the CV, then you should expect to be asked about it!

Writing a good CV is the starting point of any successful recruitment process. But how do you make the next step and formally submit? What should you know before the interview? Find out in the second part of our series: “Finding a job as a newly qualified lawyer”.

Ben Daniels
Route1 Head of Engagement

Route1 is an award winning marketplace for legal talent. For any questions, please contact our Engagement Team or visit our Contact Us page for more information.


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